Ottawa club and art gallery SAW set to reopen Friday following two-year, $1M renovation

SAW Gallery
Renovated SAW Gallery spaces, featuring the exposed brick and ceilings of the Arts Court heritage building. Photo provided

Well-known Ottawa arts centre SAW reopens to the public Friday evening following two years of construction to triple the size of its gallery and event spaces.

SAW’s basement space in the downtown Arts Court building on Daly Avenue has been under renovation since July 2017. After raising $20,000 from public and private donations, SAW director Tam-Ca Vo-Van says the avant-garde arts centre spent roughly $1 million on renovations to expand its total space to 15,000 square feet.

The larger footprint includes a new outdoor courtyard and space taken over from the Ottawa Art Gallery, which now makes its home around the corner where the Mackenzie King Bridge meets Nicholas Street.

Inside, the space now includes a fully licensed bar and modular exhibition space, which Vo-Van says will allow SAW to be more flexible with its shows and galleries. The artist-run organization previously had exhibitors on years-long waiting lists to feature their work in the space; the new expansion should allow SAW to better meet demand.

“We have walls that we can open up temporarily for exhibitions of one night, for example, and close right up,” she says.

“We weren't able to accommodate last-minute requests for impromptu projects, so this will give us the opportunity to launch a variety of projects and be more nimble.”

SAW also redid the gallery spaces it inherited from the OAG, opting for exposed ceilings and brick to highlight the Arts Court’s heritage features. White oak features throughout the gallery are made from wood reclaimed from the bottom of the Ottawa River – an extra local tie-in.

“We have all these features that really … raise the professional standards of presentation,” Vo-Van says.

SAW reopens tonight with a three-part event series. The night starts at 7 p.m. with the launch of SAW’s inaugural exhibition, Sex Life, followed by a live concert performance in the new courtyard. The evening wraps up with the first instalment of a new queer dance party, dubbed Transformers, inside the new club space.